Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet at the Royal & Derngate Northampton Review

28 May to 1 June 2019

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Reviewed by Janine Rumble

WOW! Just stunning! A masterpiece of a reimagined Shakespeare classic. This New Adventures production is celebrating its World Premiere performances and it is a must see. It is not the contemporary Shakespeare tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet that you would expect it to be. It is a triumphant reimagining of it, bringing the story into the modern era, with a few unexpected twists and turns. Long gone is the classic battle between two families set in fair Verona, but instead it is a battle between young people and authority figures set in the cold, white tiled Verona Institute. Gone is the balcony upon which their love blossomed, to be replaced with the cold, metal railings overlooking the institute, but still love blossoms between the pair, even though it is forbidden within the institute, over lorded by a tyrannical guard, who himself wants Juliet. Enter Romeo, who has been committed to the institute by his parents. Upon meeting in the institute the pair fall in love and you, watch their journey of tragic love, repressed emotions and longing to be together, aided by the other young patients in the institute and a kindly vicar, until it’s bitter, tragic ending.

The choreography is amazing, the dancers are superb, how they can contort themselves and move themselves around the stage, portraying all their emotions through dance is just mesmerising. I was entranced from the very beginning and remained so until the end. The dancers are just amazing; the stamina they have to perform with such ferocity for an hour and a half is unimaginable. Paris Fitzpatrick as Romeo and Cordelia Braithwaite as Juliet were stunning, the way they danced together was fluid and seamless. At times, they looked like one being and the emotions they elicited were beyond compare. Dan Wright as the evil Tybalt gave a chilling performance, I wanted to boo and jeer at him when he was on stage, and he personified evil, through his performance, through both the dance and his facial expressions. Although his death was brutal, shocking and unexpected. Reece Causton as Mercutio was amazing, the strength and the power he portrayed was amazing, and his death was saddening. The other dancers are so talented and mesmerising to watch; Jackson Fisch as Balthasar, Harrison Dowzell as Benvolio, Hannah Mason as Frenchie, Briony Harrison as Dorcas, Roisin Whelan as Lavinia, Sharol Mackenzie as Morgan, Christopher Thomas as Edmund, Alexander Fadayiro as Lennox, Callum Bowman as Sebastian, Cameron Flynn as Fabian and the dancers who had multiple parts to play, including Daisy May Kemp as the Rev. Bernadette Laurence, Brie Montague and the Nurse, Matt Petty as Senator Montague, Guard and Orderly and Monique Jonas as Magdalen and Governor Escalus.

There are three acts; Act One in the Verona Institute in the not so distant future. Act Two – Two weeks later and Act Three – One Week Later follows the interval. I did not notice the change in dates as I was so caught up in watching the dancing, it was not a very obvious change as I missed it.

ROMEO AND JULIET by Matthew Bourne
Photo Credit: Johan Persson

The set is amazing. It does not change throughout the performance. It consists of a large, curved, white tiled wall that fills most of the stage. It has a door in the middle and two prison style doors two either side, one with the word ‘Boys’ above it and the other with the word ‘Girls’ above it. There are rails going up either side of walls, which are used to great effect throughout. Then to the sides are metal steps leading up to a metal walkway along the top. The backdrop is high metal fences with gates at either side. This gives it a real institute feeling. The stage and the set are both used to great effect. I especially loved the way the stage was lit, throwing the dancers shadows along the white tiled walls. I also liked the way their stark white institute costumes reflected in the tiles as they moved, this I felt added another dimension to the performance, as if the ghosts of the past were dancing in the walls. It all added to the mesmerising effect.

This production is unusual as it has dancers from Northampton performing as well, they were brilliant and I think it is great that Sir Matthew Bourne encourages young talent in this way, by giving them a chance to perform with their peers in front of large audiences. They are a very talented group of young dancers, who I am sure we will be seeing more of in the future. They included Karishma Young as Faith, Alanah Corbridge as Martha, Elsie Ward as Bridget, Jamie Blackadder as Rafe, Edwin Cheng as Griffin and Matthew Brion as Ambrose. Bravo!

The live orchestra added to the show and the musician’s musical talents were outstanding. Each character had their own music to represent them, which I thought was a very clever touch. The music chosen for each part of the performance really complimented the dance. The only negative I would say is at the end, after the encore, Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance was played. I know it matches with what the story is about, but after listening to Prokofiev’s amazing music performed live, this was a bit of a strange ending.

I would give this production 4.5 out of 5 and would highly recommend everyone, whether they are a lover of ballet or not to go and see this Sir Matthew Bourne’s directed and choreographed production.

As always, it is a pleasure to visit Royal & Derngate. It is a lovely theatre perfectly situated in the middle of Northampton town centre. It is easy to get to and parking is just yards down the road. The staff are always nice, polite and helpful. The shop and bars cater for all tastes, at reasonable prices. The facilities are clean and tidy, as is the theatres themselves. Access for disabled persons is brilliant as well.

Rating: 4.5/5

Tickets cost from £11 (booking fees may apply).

Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet is at the Royal & Derngate in Northampton from 28 May to 1 June 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk or call the box office on 01604 624811.

Royal & Derngate, Guildhall Road, Northampton, NN1 1DP | 01604 624811

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